Kaye and Hipkins working together on language teaching bill

This is a very good sign from two younger senior politicians – Minister of Education Chris Hipkins is supporting Former education minister Nikki Kaye’s members’ bill – the Education (Strengthening Second Language Learning in Primary and Intermediate Schools) Amendment Bill – to at least the committee stage in Parliament.

NZ Herald:  Ex-education minister Nikki Kaye signs up sitting Minister Chris Hipkins to progress bill for teaching languages

Foreign language learning in primary schools looks likely to become commonplace for Kiwi kids with widespread political support for a private member’s bill promoting second-language teaching from a young age.

Former education minister Nikki Kaye has won the support of current Education Minister Chris Hipkins and the Labour caucus, plus the Greens and Act, to progress her bill to select committee.

The bill is also likely to extend the provision of Māori language teaching in schools as well as foreign languages.

The bill requires the Government to set 10 priority languages – likely to include Mandarin, Spanish, French, Japanese, Korean, Pacific languages and possibly Hindi as well as official languages Te Reo Māori and New Zealand Sign Language.

It also requires the Government to resource the provision of those languages in primary and intermediate schools.

Kaye said a number of issues would need to be worked through at select committee.

“These include investing in workforce development to ensure we have the teachers and that adequate time is given for schools to implement this. I realise this could be phased in over a number of years.”

The bill won’t come up for its first reading vote until next year but she has had a commitment in writing from Labour, the Greens and Act that they will support it. New Zealand First is still considering it. Kaye was particularly complimentary about Hipkins.

“He has been incredibly generous and understanding that while there may need to be some changes to the bill in the future, that he is supportive to send it to select committee.”

Hipkins said there was real value in second-language learning.

“Kids who do a second language generally tend to do better in their first language,” he said.

“It is not going to be something that any Government can deliver in three, six or even nine years. It is going to be something we are going to have to work on over a long period of time.”

He said one of the areas of debate would be around the concept of priority languages, the role of Pacific languages, the focus on Asian languages in the context of economic partnerships and the traditional European languages which have taught for a long time.

“I’m not sure whether we should restrict down to a small list of priority languages but the bill gives us an opportunity to have that discussion.”

He welcomed the opportunity to have a discussion about what was taught in schools, including language learning, on a cross-party basis rather than being divided along party lines.

This is a good bill to have put into the Members’ ballot, so good on Kaye for that. Lucky it was drawn.

And it is very good to see the ex-minister and current Minister, from normally opposing parties, working together to get this bill debated and worked over in Parliament. It doesn’t guarantee it will end up passing, but this shows our MPs and parties are capable of working together on policies of common interest.

I would like to see more of this cooperation between the Government and the Opposition – it does happen quite a bit as business as usual in Parliament but usually gets little or no attention.

Holding to account, and even attacking opponents constructively, are important parts of our democratic system, but those actions should be exceptions rather than the norm.

Unfortunately media tend to prefer to report on conflict rather than cooperation, but I think that most voters would prefer to see more working together between all our representatives in Parliament.

This cooperation on Kaye’s language bill is a very good sign.


  1. Ray

     /  12th December 2018

    “Unfortunately media tend to prefer to report on conflict” hit the nail right on the head.
    Just as it is not really a cabal of Jacinda fan girls trying to destabilise Simon Bridges, rather the media trying to make a story from not much and of course it worked so well while Labour were in opposition, hence the revolving door of Labour leaders.
    Just a way to sell more paper!

  2. Duker

     /  12th December 2018

    These moves to improve teaching of other languages at school mostly go nowhere. The real reason is that English is a first , second and third language all rolled into one. English vocabulary is vastly greater than any other, some reckon its almost half French, with 45% of words having their origin in that language. I had to laugh the other day when Merkel used the English word ‘shitstorm’ in an interview- apparently it has entered the german vocab with the same meaning but isnt seen as ‘vulgar’ for someone in her position. So we give the germans shitstorm while they give us uber in return ?

    • Gezza

       /  12th December 2018

      How many languages have you ever studied (i.e. learnt) other than English, as a matter of interest, and what are they?

      • Duker

         /  12th December 2018

        2. In the exact same circumstances they are talking about..

  3. Gezza

     /  12th December 2018

    I agree with your sentiments and comments above, for the same reasons you state, PG.

  4. duperez

     /  12th December 2018

    Kids learning another language is good. The reality of it happening in schools is another thing. For kids to effectively learn another language there will need year on year of exposure to it. And not a 40 minute period in a week. In an academic tutorial. Consider the logistics in a primary school of 400 children. How many years will it be before there are enough staff competent enough for thorough delivery? Not trying to be a naysayer, I think the aim is most worthy, but it isn’t going to be some click-of-the-fingers to achieve.

    Having a superficial exercise where teachers ‘teach’, some kids pick up some snippets, everyone has some exposure and awareness and a few have their interest kindled enough to continue with it seems the most likely outcome over a fairly long term.

    • Gezza

       /  12th December 2018

      I dunno, learnt Latin for two years, forms 3 and 4, hated it – and Cabbage, the teacher. Mutual. Dropped it for SC year
      and French from form 2 to form 6 (loved it, did well).
      Maori wasn’t an option then – if it was I’d have taken it.

      I had to check my school reports – I thought I only endured Latin for one year, but I must’ve had a different teacher the first year cos I did ok until I got that sarcastic arsehole Cabbage.

      I’d love to be able to remember what bastard gave me “Unsatisfactory” for bloody Social Studies in Form 1; but I see I got 1st in Art – so he can get stuffed.

      Rather distressing comment First Term of School C year:
      “Gezza’s work during term has been quite good, but at times he seems to lack concentration”. I feel this is rather unfair. I was simply concentrating on different things than they wanted me to.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  12th December 2018

        Primary school is a completely different situation from a secondary school cert subject. I think duperez is on target.

        • Gezza

           /  12th December 2018

          Yeah, well you would. But that means nothing to me or Nikki Kaye or Chris Hipkins – so there !

        • Gezza

           /  12th December 2018

          I was amazed to see I kept getting high marks (and two 1sts) for Religious Studies (Catholic College) right up until 5th form when I became an atheist. Mind you, religious studies in college was a young chaplain having a natter to us all for 40 minutes once a month and he enjoyed debating my atheism as it developed. And one of those periods was given over a visit from some cool-looking young hippy-dude protester who’d got prosecuted for writing a book and titling it Bullshit & Jellybeans. Tim Shadbolt. He told us one day he’d have to accept some young people telling him “You don’t know what you’re talking about old man: make way for the new generation” (or words to that general effect).

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  12th December 2018

            Funny at my school too, 3rd form scripture prize won by one atheist with me as another runner up.